Candidates weigh in on B.C.'s overdose crisis

Fort St John has seen a record number of fatal drug overdoses this year. There is much debate among residents about the potential for a safe injection site in the city, while the Peace region continues to suffer a severe shortage of recovery beds.

Peace River North candidates Dan Davies and Trevor Bolin were asked at the Oct. 14 public forum what their party would do to address this crisis in our community, and how will it address the poisoned drug supply. Here are their responses:

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Trevor Bolin: “I have a very personal experience with that; my father was a drug addict for 25 years here in Fort St. John up until his death about nine years ago. We need help, we need support, we need the government to partner with communities to ensure that facilities are built in order to treat those that are addicted.

“We need to ensure that when our RCMP arrest a drug dealer in an illegal drug transaction, where somebody is going to or could fatally die, that the courts don’t let them back out again.

“Our system is broken. The fact that you’ve got 32% of existing addicts, once they become sober and clean up, that actually reflect back on the fact that their addiction was caused by mental health, gives you a sense of the fact that we have failed.

“Communities have been crying for help for the province, Fort St. John has been crying for help from the province for the 12-13 years I’ve been on council. This has been a near and dear issue to my heart. But until we start to ensure that we treat the root cause, we’re never going to fix the issues. And if we’re never going to fix the issues, it’s going to continue to get worse, and right now it’s as bad as we’ve ever seen it.

“Lets band together, let’s ensure treatment facilities are readily available or at least planned and coming in to communities such as Fort St. John where these problems exist. And then let’s ensure that when our RCMP are doing their job in getting these guys off the streets, that we’re after the federal government to ensure that the courts are keeping them off the streets, keeping our families safe, keeping our children safe.”

Dan Davies: “I hosted a roundtable on mental health and addictions about a year ago. We had our mental health and addiction critic up, we sat with RCMP, paramedics, the social services locally. This is a really big issue in the north, and I don’t think people know how big it is.

“It’s something we need to start looking at, it’s a medical issue, and we need to start putting the right pieces in place to get the supports people need. But it’s not just a matter of getting people to detox and then sending them on their way. We need complete wrap-around supports to get people off of drugs so they can start leading a regular life.

“I think that’s something that we’ve really seen fail lately. We see our present government warehousing people, putting them in hotels, and hoping for the best, which has absolutely turned into a chaos situation of crime and everything else. That’s not the right way to manage this.

“We need more psychiatric nurses and doctors up here, we don’t have those in Fort St John. Right now, if there’s an issue, it’s Dawson Creek. We need to make sure we’re supporting that.

“Another big issue is a private member’s bill that was introduced by our party recently, it’s called the Safe Care Act. We see a lot of young people that get addicted to drugs, and again there are a lot of issues around mental health. But we can’t get them help because there is nothing enforceable that a parent can do for their own child to get them the help that they need. The Safe Care Act is a piece of legislation that we would look at passing to make sure parents have the tools that they can get help for their son before they’re living on the streets, here or in Eastside Vancouver.” 

Danielle Monroe, candidate for the NDP, did not attend the forum, and has not responded to press inquiries.

General voting day is Oct. 24 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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